By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
JERUSALEM (Worthy News) – Israel is reportedly reassessing its visa policies for Evangelical Christian organizations, including the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ), which fears it may have to close down.
“We are slowly being squeezed out of existence by the Interior Ministry,” said David Parsons, vice president and senior spokesperson of the ICEJ, in published remarks.
While there have been visa restrictions for Christian missionaries for years, Israel’s Interior Ministry recently also turned against pro-Israel Evangelical organizations already operating in the country, according to ICEJ sources.
The Ministry of Interior — led by Minister Moshe Arbel, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and legislator of the religious Shas political party — stopped issuing clergy visas for staff working at the ICEJ and similar Christian Zionist groups, Worthy News learned.
The minister reportedly stated that the ICEJ “does not meet the criteria” to be considered a religious organization.
Founded in 1980, the ICEJ has a small permanent staff of 40 in Jerusalem and is involved in various charitable projects in Israel. The group has also been involved in bringing thousands of Jews to Israel.
However, the organization has faced difficulties obtaining staff visas since the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020.
The difficulties increased under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though it wasn’t clear whether he was directly involved in restricting visas.
Netanyahu, who needs ultra-Orthodox backing to stay in power, made it a point to reach out to Evangelical Christians over the weekend.
Addressing a virtual conference of about 400 Evangelical Christian leaders hosted by Mike Evans, the founder of the Friends of Zion group, he said: “I’m a great champion of devout Christians because devout Christians are the greatest champions of the State of Israel.”
However, Rabbi Elie Mischel, the director of the Education at Israel365 group, agreed with Netanyahu’s praise to a certain extent but cautioned that “the Prime Minister did not mention the elephant in the room” in reference to evangelism.
“The cause of the current tensions are Evangelical groups that actively engage in proselytizing Jews in Israel,” the rabbi said in published comments.
“Given the history of almost two millennia of Christian persecution of the Jewish people, this activity is deeply inappropriate and insulting to Jews across the spectrum, from right to left.”
He added that to “end Jewish-Christian tensions, the State of Israel must learn to distinguish between Christian organizations that love and respect the Jewish people and those who are trying to convert us all to Christianity.”
Israel’s Ministry of Interior has used similar arguments. However, several Evangelicals say being friends with Israel doesn’t mean converting Jews to religious Christianity but instead sharing the Gospel about a personal relationship with Yeshua Hamashiach or “Jesus the Messiah.”
They refer to Apostle Paul’s writing in Bible verses such as Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
It was unclear how Prime Minister Netanyahu would reconcile these different views.
His meeting with Evangelical leaders suggested he wants Israel to remain open for devoted Christians despite pressure from more ultra-Orthodox voices within his government.
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